Commercial HVAC System Thermostats Based On Out of Date Worker Profiles
There’s your coworker, bundled up in the office wearing a thick sweater in her cubicle despite the sweltering heat outside. No, your female coworker isn’t crazy. And if you’re young, male and overweight, you may find yourself a little hotter than you’d like as you sit in your cubicle. Please know you’re not alone. After all, your workplace thermostat’s ambient temperature could be geared towards men instead of women. And lean men too, at that! In fact, judging by research published last year in the journal Nature Climate Change, indoor climate standards are often out of date with today’s workplace and its diversity.
Thermal Comfort, Standard Guidelines
Energy consumption for commercial offices and residential buildings comprise more than 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions. As the report explains, temperature standards for these environments are created using what’s called an “empirical thermal comfort model.” In other words, there are well documented guidelines that set the so-called “perfect temperature” for the people working and living inside these large urban spaces. The problem? Originally created more than 40 years ago at a nascent stage in the commercial HVAC industry, the numbers are based on the basic assumption that everyone inside these buildings is a 40 year old, 154 pound man. This is why your female employees may complain they’re freezing on any given day in the office, despite the sweltering heat outside-or that a larger male might also feel uncomfortable.
Women Process Heat Differently
Differences in metabolic rates are no joke, and their effects on the way in which our bodies produce heat are well documented. For example, a recent report from the Netherlands’ Maastrict University revealed that women’s metabolic rates (and their ability to warm themselves) can be as much as 35% less than their male counterparts. According to the study’s authors, Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt and Boris Kingma, “…Indoor climate standards may intrinsically misrepresent thermal demands of the female.”
Comfortable Environments, Happy Employees
So turn up the thermostat! You may find in taking a poll of your employees that some prefer a slightly warmer temperature in the office. Weight and age can also play a role in what’s comfortable to people, so be sure to ask everyone. And in doing so, you’ll be taking a giant leap forward for everyone into a discrimination-free San Gabriel Valley workplace of the 21st century. No sweaters required.
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